More dicks, less speed

I have never been so relieved to survive a track day in all my life.  Holy crapping snot-turnips, there were some right cockbuckets out there today.

The weather forecast had promised 17 degrees and overcast, which is perfect track day weather, but no, it was the hottest day of the year.  30 degrees with unbroken sunshine.  Cars cooked, and so did drivers’ brains.

I would make you a compilation of all the dicks I caught on camera but, honestly, you’d get bored after the first hour.  They were EVERYWHERE.

Of course, some people were fine, it’s only the 90% of drivers that gave the rest a bad name.

Ho ho, no, not really.  It was probably only 10% that were being dicks, but they really made themselves known.  And in a day as packed as this one was, 10% is at least 20 dicks, which is too much for everybody in one day except possibly Katie Price on her birthday.

Jimbo follows Mike

Jimbo follows Mike through Wehrseifen

Somehow, Mike and I survived unscathed, despite the best efforts of several future Darwin award nominees.  The decent lap time in the Teg that I was hoping for didn’t come, due to insane amounts of traffic and lack of talent on my part.  I did another two very busy laps in it, the first of which was another 9m40 and the second unknown because both cameras failed in the heat, but was only 6 seconds up at the 2/3 point (so still rubbish).  I chipped the Elise down to 9m08 despite being held up for the entire second half of that lap by a Caterham whose mirrors had a strange vampire effect making them show everything but Lotuses.  This was the story of my day – I would get a good first half lap and then some fucktard would spend the second half of the lap thinking he was keeping me honest whilst actually baulking me continuously, because *clearly* a little roller skate without the power to break a spider’s web can’t *possibly* be faster than *me* in my 300bhp rocketship.  As Jonny Leroux so eloquently puts it in his BookaTrack briefings, if someone catches you up, he wasn’t PUT THERE BY GOD, he’s QUICKER.  Bah.

Now, back in the guesthouse after steak-on-a-stone at the overcrowded, under-staffed and annoyingly noisy Pistenklause restaurant (albeit with good food), my overriding feeling is not a post-track-day glow like I usually have, but a relief that I’m still alive.  As Mike wisely observed, the overcrowding in the car parks, the rate of stoppages and the level of track knobbery made it feel *exactly* like a Touristenfahrten day.  This is not what I paid a grand for, and it is not acceptable.

The exception is the car park marshals, who were outstanding the whole time.  It’s a thankless task but it really makes a difference when it’s done well.  So a big THANK YOU to the guys and girls in the yellow vests who kept the traffic moving and kept a smile on their faces.  And a cheeky wink to the marshal who stopped the oblivious Seat Ibiza driver from going on the track with his tailgate wide open.  Seriously, that really happened – this was the level of cockbollockry we had to deal with.

So I’m sorry guys, I do like you all at Destination Nurburgring and I wish you well in the future, but I won’t be doing any more of your days, because I find your customer knobhead quota unacceptable.

And I’m not sure I want to go back to Pistenklause either any more – not because of the food, which is always good, but because it’s just so damn busy and noisy.  We actually couldn’t get a pudding at all, because the waiting staff were so overrun they couldn’t get hold of a menu for us!  That’s just not right.

Instead, there’s a restaurant at the far end of Adenau High Street called “La Stazione”, which we’ve been to a few times before and it was always *good* … but now it’s *excellent*.  The cordon bleu schnitzel was the best I’ve ever had, anywhere.  And we were the *only* customers!  Life is so unfair.

 

UPDATE: Having watched the video of the 9m08 lap, I think I was a bit unfair to the Caterham driver.  My memory of the lap doesn’t match the video very well at all.  Firstly, I didn’t remember that the Caterham had already come pissing past me earlier in the lap, and he was *much* quicker than me.  Secondly, although he was holding me up through the technical section, in the sense that I would’ve gone faster if he hadn’t been there, I was hovering a *long* way behind him, so it’s hardly surprising he didn’t let me by.  I remember thinking I didn’t want to get any closer as he’d have better brakes than me and I didn’t want to get caught out if he braked in an odd place.  But I can’t blame him for staying on his line as it really doesn’t look like I’m being delayed in the video.  Funny how the brain makes you remember things that didn’t happen…

 

Destination Nurburgring Armco

Big sigh of relief to surviving day 1 of Destination Nurburgring’s double-header.  It’s early July and the weather gods are smiling, but the talent gods are not.

Elise and Teg all stickered up having survived day 1

 

I do enjoy Destination Nurburgring track days but I *don’t* like that (a) they sell too many places so the track is rammed and (b) there are too many knobheads.  The track was perfect today, gripwise, so all the quick boys were trying to set a time, whilst many others clearly didn’t know what a racetrack was, let alone why everyone seems to be in such a hurry.  Surprise surprise, people crashed into each other.

At the very start of the day, not 20 minutes in, I arrived on the scene at the Foxhole shortly after a supposedly “very experienced” driver had distributed his car into a thousand pieces over the circuit, which was then closed for well over an hour.  Sometime later a Megane’s brakes failed at Wehrseifen causing another near-hour stoppage while the tyre wall was rebuilt, and half an hour from the end there was a huge multi-car crash at Adenau.  People were passing on both sides (a big no-no) and wherever they felt like it.  I was passed once as I was struggling to hold the line through the 120mph kink before Schwedenkreuz – the very fastest part of the track at a point where the racing line is for me to close off his pass, and for me to let him through I have to sacrifice my line and risk going off as a result.  He had no way of knowing I’d seen him.  If I hadn’t, at least one of us would be dead right now.

And to make me even more arsey, when I checked the camera footage, the lap times were a bit pants too.  The Elise has come down to 9m20, which I’m pleased with considering it only has 118bhp, but the two (albeit trafficked) laps I did in the Teg were a lumbering 9m40.  That’s PATHETIC.  That car is a *weapon*.  Clearly I need to learn it a lot better.

But tomorrow is another day.  I won’t be forcing the issue – if the time doesn’t come then it doesn’t come.  And if a mysterious dark saloon takes me out approaching Schwedenkreuz then at least I died doing what I love.

The hat says, "Still Plays With Cars".

 

Back in the Ring again

Feck and dammit.  Jesus cocking Christ on a pogo stick.  I kept to 70 *all the way* from home.  Now there’s a temporary 50 limit for a lane closure that I can SEE doesn’t exist so I don’t slow down to 50 for it and *FLASH* there goes my clean driving licence.  Not a good start to the trip.

I haven’t been back to the Ring since The Catastrophic Trip Of 2013 when most of my fleet went pop or bang.  To be honest I’m a bit nervous about going back.  I’ve spent all my money and considerably more that I don’t have on getting them all fixed up again.  Another disaster would spell game over for Jimbo’s luxury life of Dicking About With Cars.  It’s now 8am and I’m on the ferry with bleary eyes and a minor caffeine injection gently circulating inside.  The 8am ferry is definitely the one to get – it means you miss the rush hour at both ends – but boy, when the alarm goes off at 3:45 it seems like the worst idea since I pre-booked my slot to sing Two Little Boys at next week’s karaoke.

Maidstone Services is usually an hour away, but having driven super-safely today and thus incurring the wrath of the law, it’s more like an hour and a quarter.  Mike’s just had his first lucky scrape – or rather not – of the day as he discovered quite how low the front bumper of our Teg is.

Mike says hi, by the way.  He’s amusing himself while I’m being anti-social on the ferry and talking to you instead of him, via the wonders of The Blog.

This is the “new” Teg.  Our previous one, the famous one that got dinged at the Ring last year, turned rotten over the autumn and needed major surgery in the expert hands of Hond-R.  So major, in fact, that it now has a new identity and is a Japanese Integra instead of a UK one.  Due to piss-poor planning on my part, we have foregone the intended UK shakedown and it will make its track debut at the Ring tomorrow at Destination Nurburgring’s double track day.  Then we’re driving it to Le Mans.  What can possibly go wrong?  Christ I hope nothing does.  If I get any more big bills I’ll have to start a pelican farm.

Saga Porker

So, the Porsche.  The Mid-Life Crisis.  Regular readers will remember how it expired on the legendary Nordschleife last August.  For the first few months people asked after it – then they started thinking probably they shouldn’t ask any more as it seemed to evoke Very Large Sighs from me whenever it was mentioned.  FINALLY, ten months later, I’ve got it back.

This is what happened.

Having left the Porsche with RSR in Nürburg, like an Egyptian with greased deck shoes, I swiftly fell into denial.  I couldn’t afford to fix it so I was in no hurry to get it back.  I was told “probably not September, more likely October” for the fix.  So with my natural haste (!!) I followed it up at the end of November, and again in January.

Ah, but that was after the break-in.  Shortly after I’d left it there, RSR was broken into in the dead of night.  The thieving scumbags took two of RSR’s halo cars and ALL THE KEYS to the other cars on site.  Including mine.  Fortunately I had a spare, which I posted to Germany, however I’d never used it.  After inquiring about the state of the car in late November, they discovered the spare key didn’t work.  Hmmm.

At that point I was a bit pissed at RSR for not replacing the stolen key and letting the car sit there for 5 months without doing anything to it – at that point they’d had the car for longer than I had (!!!!), but then I hadn’t asked after it, so clearly they knew I wasn’t that bothered.  Which I wasn’t.  To be honest I didn’t want to see the fecking thing again (I have a very low tolerance for unreliability in cars), but even broken it’s still worth a ton of cash and even a mountainous indifference to the car wasn’t enough to make me ignore that.  So I contacted boss-man Ron Simons and we had a chat.  Up to that point Ron hadn’t been involved apart from agreeing to look after it at the time, as a favour.  Within five minutes Ron’s magic had made everything OK again and RSR were back in my good books.  Ron got his men to give the stricken motor a colonoscopy and told me that it was a bit beyond their expertise to take it any further, which I hadn’t fully grasped before.  Ron shipped the car to Porsche Koblenz for me and everything was warm and fuzzy again.  Briefly.

Porsche Koblenz noted that it had “probably broken something on the cylinder head”.  They did a compression test on it, charging 4 hours at 125 Euros per hour (!!!), then announced that the next stage of investigation – taking the engine apart – would cost “in excess of 30,000 Euros.”

FUCK.  RIGHT.  OFF.

Am I on Candid Camera?  30 thousand Euros?  The fecking car didn’t cost that, and they want that just to LOOK AT IT?!?!?!  I don’t pissing think so.  A quick email to my trusty trucker Alex from Lizard Logistics and he was on the case to bring it back home for me.  Thirty thousand Euros.  You can buy whole people for less than that.

So.  Chapter Three.  I’ve been using Lakeside Engineering in Ottershaw for many years now and they really are excellent – they’ve kept my much-abused Elise in fine fettle for well over a decade now and it still hasn’t let me down after 70,000 miles and more track days than you can shake a jelly at.  As it happens they’re Porsche specialists as well as Lotus specialists, so I had every confidence in leaving the sick 996 in their capable hands.  Based on the evidence gleaned from Porsche Koblenz, Max started taking it apart.  Then I obtained a scan of the compression test and forwarded it on.  By now, it’s March already.

 

A few days later, I received The Call.

I don’t know how cars work, but Max does.  It turns out that the compression test results from Porsche Koblenz were IMPOSSIBLE.  They showed two cylinders with zero percent leakage and another two with 2% leakage.  Even a fresh engine off the production line would leak 3-5%.  So the results Porsche Koblenz provided were FICTITIOUS.  At best, you could imagine maybe they’d discarded the results and, when I asked for them, they reconstructed them from memory as best they could.  At worst, they just made the fecking results up and charged me for work they never did.  What.  A.  Bunch.  Of.  Bastards.

When Max took the engine to bits, he found that cylinder 4 was indeed leaking (as RSR had originally noted) but not enough to cause the failure.  So what did cause the failure?

Are you ready for this?

A spark plug.

The porcelain came out of the plug’s metal mount, which in turn destroyed the coil pack.  That’s why the car went into limp-home mode.

If it had had a new plug and coil pack at the time, I could have driven it home from Germany.

Nnnnnnnnnnng.

So now the engine’s in bits and it didn’t really need to come apart in the first place.  Taking the engine apart and putting it back together again comprises most of the labour, so the most expensive cost is already sunk.  Now that it’s in bits, it makes sense to do all those things that need the engine to come out for.  It’s on its original clutch, so let’s change that, and the cylinder *was* leaking so let’s do all those, the air conditioning needs new condensers, and it was jumping out of second gear at Blyton Park, which is a common problem that needs a new gearbox ring to fix – and of course Porsche will only sell them to you in full sets.

Unsurprisingly, all that took a while to do, and I was ferrying other cars into Lakeside for maintenance in parallel with the Porsche so it took even longer.  But it’s all done now.  And it’s as good as new.

But the bill came to seventeen grand.  Owwwwwwwch.  That might be the most expensive spark plug in history.  I don’t have seventeen grand.  The mortgage fund does, but I’d already tapped that to buy the thing in the first place.  Just as well interest rates are low right now.  Let’s hope they stay that way until I can earn some money to pay it off.

So now I have it back.  It feels new to me again – hardly surprising since I’d only done 3000 miles in it before its ten month rehabilitation and hadn’t gelled with it then.  I feel strangely ambivalent about it now.  On the one hand, it’s made me skinter than I’ve been since I still had acne.  On the other, it wasn’t the car’s fault.  It had a minor failure and shut itself down to prevent further damage.  It did the right thing.  And now it’s better than ever, and it’s going to go up in value over the next few years.

But I’m a bit scared of it now.  I now need the money that it represents – the money that I’ll get back when I sell it, because I’ve borrowed it and I will need to pay it back.  So it’s changed from being an extravagant toy into a valuable asset.  I’m not sure how to feel about that.  I want to be able to give my toys a damn good spanking.  If I can’t do that, what’s the point?

So right now, it’s in a firm last place in fleet favouritism.  Will I bond with it over the coming months?  You’ll be the second to know.